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"I'm Guybrush Threepwood, Mighty Pirate!"

The Monkey Island series of adventure games from LucasArts (and one from Telltale Games) chronicles the escapades of Guybrush Threepwood, an unassuming Genius Ditz pirate who travels the Caribbean, and inevitably ends up butting heads with LeChuck, a sinister undead pirate.

Originally conceived as a Treasure Island-like pirate adventure by Ron Gilbert and heavily inspired by the pirate adventure novel On Stranger Tides note , co-creators Tim Schafer and Dave Grossman (of Telltale Games) began using their own meta-fictional jokes as placeholders. LucasArts then told Schafer and his gang to write the rest of the dialogue. Presto changeo.

The games in the series, to date, are:

Updated rereleases/Remakes:

  • The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition (2009)
  • Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge: Special Edition (2010)

Series creator Gilbert left after the second game. After the long hiatus following Escape, Telltale took up the mantle with their episodic Tales of Monkey Island release — with Gilbert's blessing and the involvement of key staff members from the original two games. LucasArts has also gotten back in the game of late, finally redeeming themselves in the eyes of adventure fans by remaking both the original Secret of Monkey Island and the first sequel LeChuck's Revenge, complete with voice acting by the cast of Curse.

For years, the franchise seemed dead: due to the acquisition of Lucasfilm by Disney in 2012, the IP became their property and they promptly shut LucasArts down. They did keep the older games up for sale and some of the older adventure game IPs were sold off, but efforts by series creator Ron Gilbert to purchase the Monkey Island rights went nowhere. Telltale Games had similar luck getting the license to do future seasons of their Tales series before they closed in 2018, hence leaving their revival as a once-off.

This all changed, however, on April 4, 2022, when Gilbert & Grossman revealed on YouTube that they, with Ron's studio Terrible Toybox, were teaming up with indie publisher Devolver Digital and Lucasfilm Games for a true sequel, Return to Monkey Island, released September 2022 and once again starring Dominic Armato as Guybrush Threepwood. View the announcement teaser here.

Note: Please put tropes related to individual games on their respective pages, and character tropes in the character page.

This series provides examples of:

  • Absurd Phobia: Guybrush has a crippling unexplained fear of porcelain.
  • Absurdly Dedicated Worker: In The Secret of Monkey Island Guybrush trains a monkey to hold down a switch so that he can enter a giant monkey head totem and descend into the underworld. Three games later, he returns to the area and finds the grave of that monkey, and is told that it waited patiently for him to return until it starved to death.
  • Accidental Misnaming: Characters using random variations of Guybrush Threepwood but rarely the proper name is a Running Gag.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Elaine has black hair in the original 16-color version of Secret. In the older 256-color upgrade of Secret and in LeChuck's Revenge it's brown. In Curse, she has red hair and blue eyes. In Tales she has red hair and green eyes. In the MI1 Special Edition remake Elaine now has brown hair and green eyes; however, in the MI2 SE she has red hair instead (but still has green eyes).
    • In the first game, Guybrush is a dirty blonde shaggy-haired pubescent boy. In the second he has brown hair and a beard. His "cartoon" incarnation is a clean-cut older teen.
      • His hair was meant to be reddish blond (as seen on the first game's cover and in close-ups), but the first game did not have the capability to display the exact shade on character sprites - especially as it had to be ported for several, lower res systems. As a result, in Secret, his hair is lighter than intended, and in Revenge, it is darker than intended. In Curse (the first without either creator Ron Gilbert nor orig artist Steve Purcell), the developers assumed that the intended color was plain blond based on the first game's graphics, and as a result, it was canonised as such from then on.
  • Aerith and Bob: Plain common names are mixed with punny or ludicrous ones. Take the main duo; Elaine Marley and Guybrush Threepwood. The ridiculous nature of the latter name is a running joke throughout the series.
  • Anachronism Stew: Including a Lampshade Hanging on "shoddy, 17th century electrical wiring."
    • It's played with, as the second game suggests that this may be due to the entire game being the fantasy of a child lost in a theme park. Many of the supposed anachronisms were possibly subtle hints towards this. As the original creator and team left before the mystery could be answered, however, this became an Aborted Arc and the third to fifth games have played the trope straight.
    • Return to Monkey Island brings back the Aborted Arc with its ending. Was Guybrush really just an over-imaginative theme park visitor (and/or flooring inspector)? Is the world of Monkey Island actually real? Or does the truth lie somewhere in-between? Both endings, the various epilogue scenes, and other context clues all imply one of these is true to varying extents, but none of the endings and epilogues can be truly considered "definitive". Perhaps, as Guybrush tells his son in one of the possible dialogue choices at the end of the game:
      Guybrush: There isn't any one answer to what the Secret is. It's not like a rock or a banana, it's like a story. It changes with time and the person telling it. Everyone you ask will have a different idea.
  • April Fools' Day:
    • A couple years after Escape but well before Tales was even in planning, a couple large fan sites began an elaborate, months-long prank where they promoted a fictional Monkey Island 5 complete with "leaked" concept art and audio clips of some of Guybrush's dialogue (including a fictional fake blooper reel), voiced by Dominic Armato! It culminated in a clip of Guybrush talking to the "Little LeChuck" and "Little Guybrush" puppets from Escape...
      Guybrush: Hey, Little LeChuck, will you be my Valentine?
      Little LeChuck: What are ye, daft? It ain't even Valentine's Day!
      Little Guybrush: That's right, it's April 1st! And— hey... does that mean all this Monkey Island 5 talk was an April Fool's joke?!
    • When Ron Gilbert announced on his Grumpy Gamer blog on April 1, 2022, that he was working on a new Monkey Island game, most readers of the blog at first took as another April Fools joke. But what some more observant fans of Ron's work noticed was that he had previously frequently publicly proclaimed his dislike of April Fool jokes and that the post was basically a Brick Joke referring to a tweet of his from September 2013, where he said that if he ever made another Monkey Island game he would announce it on April 1. Indeed, on April 4, Ron and his collaborators would loudly and proudly confirm that his previous announcement was indeed not a joke and reveal that Return to Monkey Island was in development.
  • Art Evolution: The first game, in its original release, utilized a very realistic art style, especially during the handful of close-up shots. Starting with the sequel, the art style became more cartoonish, where by Curse, the game looked exactly like a cartoon and the cutscenes used this art style. Subsequent games maintained the cartoony look and even retrofitted it onto the re-releases of the first two games. The discordant art styles are one of the reasons why the re-releases also included a "classic" mode that retained the original look.
  • Beard of Evil: LeChuck's beard is different every game or has a plot significance. In Curse it's on fire. In Revenge it's vital to his resurrection.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Justified by the strong French and Spanish influences in the setting.
  • Bloody Bowels of Hell: The Caves of Meat in the final episode of the first game are implied to be Hell, and have giant organs growing on the walls.
  • Bound and Gagged: Happens at least once per game, except for (ironically) the first game which actually centered around a kidnapping plot. As of 2009, Curse is the only game that has used gags.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Curse introduces the "auto-loading cannon", which reappears in Tales.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Guybrush talks directly to the player in each game, and LeChuck also does this. In Curse, Guybrush and refers to himself as "a lovingly inept cartoon character with the potential for a few more sequels".
  • But Thou Must!: Both employed against Guybrush, and by Guybrush.
  • The Captain: Guybrush needs to command a ship often but he's not taken very seriously by his crew more often than not and lazy mutinies are prone to happen.
    • Captain Dread and Kate Capsize are both this at different times in Revenge, though in the former's case he can't travel many places due to his lack of navigator, and in the latter's, she can travel to any coordinate but will only do so for money.
  • Cardboard Prison: Guybrush often gets imprisoned and escapes in a comic fashion, typically because of Myopic Architecture or The Guards Must Be Crazy.
  • Catchphrase: Many, including, "Look behind you, a three-headed monkey!", "How appropriate, You Fight Like a Cow", and the page quote.
    • Note that the ™ in the page quote IS a proper part of the phrase. And not really for any legal reasons.
    • "I'm Guybrush Threepwood, a mighty pirate!"
    • "I'm Guybrush Threepwood! I mean to kill you all!"
    • "I must have left it with my other [noun]!" (shows up every few times or so)
    • "I'm selling these fine leather jackets," a Shout-Out to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure, also pops up from time to time. In the demo, he can pick up a chalice and become Indy himself for a moment
    • "I'm Bobbin Threadbare. Are you my mother?" turns up a few times as well, a Shout-Out to "Loom".
    • And "That's the second biggest ______ I've ever seen," a Shout-Out to Get Smart.
    • In Revenge, Guybrush can ask virtually every character "Wanna hear about how I defeated the ghost pirate LeChuck?" and "Wanna see my scar?", to which the answer is pretty much always no.
  • Character Aged with the Actor: Played straight from Curse to Tales, with Dominic Armato as Guybrush, Alexandra Boyd as Elaine (even though the voice actress herself was absent in Escape), Earl Boen as LeChuck (though, of course, Boen was in semi-retirement and absent only in the PC download version of Chapter 1 of Tales), and Denny Delk as Murray. Inverted in the Special Editions of Secret and LeChuck's Revenge, however, when the now-aged Armato, Boyd and Boen return to play their characters' younger selves. It should be noted that this trope is difficult to apply to Murray and LeChuck, seeing as how they're both undead.
    • Also inverted is that Pat Pinney (Stan) and Neil Ross (Wally B. Feed) sounded younger only in Curse; and S. Scott Bullock (Otis), Cam Clarke (Meathook), Wally Wingert (Herman Toothrot) and Jess Harnell (Estevan) sounded younger only in Escape; while Leilani Jones-Wilmore (The Voodoo Lady) sounded younger in both games. When the actors returned to voice the characters in the Special Editions of Secret and LeChuck's Revenge, however, the characters' younger selves now sound older than they did before.
  • Chekhov's Boomerang: Many. If you're taught how to make something, you'd better pay attention.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: The amount of physical or emotional abuse that Guybrush inflicts varies from game to game, ranging from slapstick to more serious stuff like Buried Alive. Naturally it's all played for laughs, even when Guybrush is in the receiving end, except in the Darker and Edgier installments (Revenge and Tales 4-5).
  • Covers Always Lie: Every game's box art has a scene that does not appear ingame. Just in general they make the games look a lot more serious and dramatic than they actually are.
    • Secret shows Guybrush exploring Monkey Island with a group. In the game he goes alone. Also, Elaine is depicted with a sword, which she never otherwise is.
    • Revenge shows LeChuck torturing Guybrush with a voodoo doll on a ship. Ingame LeChuck tortures Guybrush in the tunnels of Dinky Island.
    • Curse shows Guybrush confronting LeChuck near the gold statue of Elaine on top of another pirate's mast with the uncursed ring. That never happens ingame.
    • The PC version of Escape just has a collage of the characters, but the PS2 version shows Guybrush and Elaine being attacked by a gang of monkeys. That does not happen ingame.
    • Tales shows Guybrush and Elaine again on top of mast, which does not happen in the game.
      • Also, the US PC DVD version of Tales has Winslow holding a map next to Morgan (holding the Blade of Dragotta), and Guybrush making a pose up front next to Elaine, with the demon LeChuck right behind the four of them, all on a background of an island in the sunset with a dark cloud above them. This does not happen in-game, though.
  • Creator Cameo: Countless shoutouts to Ron Gilbert, including "L. Ron Gilbert" in Revenge, "I thought the SCUMM Bar was owned by a guy named Ron" in Escape, and, of course, "Nor Treblig" in Tales.
  • Damsel out of Distress: The first game sets up a Damsel in Distress setting only to conclude with the opposite. Elaine is an Action Girl who is more than capable of defending herself, and Guybrush the one who is often The Load.
  • Dem Bones: LeChuck's crew, Murray, and Guybrush's hallucinations of his parents, as well as the cameo of Manny in Curse.
  • Depending on the Writer: Elaine's characterization is different in every game (as is her appearance) — in the first game she's a soft-hearted yet very capable woman who quickly falls in love with Guybrush, in LeChuck's Revenge she's far more short-tempered and outright hostile towards her former lover, in Curse she's a Distressed Damsel and back to being in love with Guybrush, and in Escape she's depicted as an arrogant and corrupt politician. Tales and Return bring her character back to more in line with how it was in the first game.
  • Deserted Island: Or is it?
  • Developer's Foresight: Throughout the series an absurd amount of minor gags are found by using items in ways not intended in order to win the game. For example, try using the ramrod on Murray at the start of Curse, then examine the porthole in the next scene. If that made you feel bad, offer him some gum in Act 2.
    • The sheer amount of library books programmed into LeChuck's Revenge, when you only need three of them, was revolutionary at the time. It took the ability to play the game at your own pace and ran with it.
    • In the original version of 2, the ability to polish a pirate's peg leg was put in so you could buy items from the antique's store that are not part of the plot (these being the Feather Pen and the Elvis Collector Plate). However, it could be abused to hire Kate Capsize's ship, so it stops short of the exact amount (but you can sell the items back, if you already bought them, to bring it up to the right amount). As a result they capped the polishing pirate leg at 19 from the CD version onwards, making the items in the antique store The Artifact since it is impossible to buy them AND buy the relevant items for the plot with just the one amount of cash.
  • Dressed to Plunder: Because they just wouldn't be pirates without their Stock Costume Traits.
  • Drunken Glow: Rum Rogers, as the name suggests, is so inflicted with the rosy glow.
  • Easter Egg: Several, including the only way to die in the entire series.
    • There's actually a way to die in each of the six games, but only the first and sixth ones count: In Secret Guybrush drowns if he stays underwater for too long after ten minutes (the rest of the games, excepting Escape, perhaps, he automatically surfaces after the ten minutes are up). Revenge is being told after the fact, so if Guybrush dies (by way of failing to disable LeChuck's Rube Goldberg Death Trap and is lowed in to deadly acid), Elaine tells him to stop screwing around and tell the real story, and in Curse, you need to fake your death to progress. The Curse example actually comes with not one, but two fourth-wall breaking lampshades; one from Guybrush, telling the kids not to try this at home, and one from the barkeep and the gravedigger, wondering how Guybrush managed to die in a LucasArts game. In Escape, Guybrush can shoot his future self in the Mysts o'Tyme Marshe and then go around and get killed by his past self. Tales has one way to die, and surprisingly, it's not an Easter egg, but rather a part of a story to progress on from Chapter 4 to Chapter 5. Return does the same gag Revenge did, since Guybrush is telling the story to his son. However, after the first two times you try to drown Guybrush, doing it a third time cuts the framing device off, explicitly tells you Guybrush died and his adventure was cut short, gives you an achievement for your trouble, and returns to the title screen. Hope you saved beforehand!
    • Guybrush himself is an Easter egg in The Force Unleashed 2, appearing as a hidden costume. Before that, he was an alternative skin in Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine.
      • In said Indy game, the use of that cheat also replaces rocket launcher shots with slow-moving rubber chickens.
  • Expy: Ron Gilbert's inspiration came from Tim Power's On Stranger Tides and the main characters can be traced from it quite transparently.
  • Foil: Elaine is collected, determined, and militaristic, prefering to tackle problems head on. Guybrush is laid back and goofy, preferring to outwit or think his problems. Fittingly, Elaine's straight forward plans often run afoul of Guybrush's wacky antics and then it ends up left to him to fix what he broke.
  • Gangplank Galleon: The entire series.
  • Gargle Blaster: Pure grog is undrinkable, and very corrosive. The latter trait is actually used in a puzzle at one point.
  • Get on the Boat: Every game starts with Guybrush on an island, and trying to get a ship so he can go somewhere else.
  • Gosh Darn It to Heck!: Zig-zagged throughout the series. The word "hell" is used uncensored (and to refer to the literal, biblical Hell) in both Secret and Curse, but LeChuck's Revenge just has LeChuck describe the place he's trying to banish Guybrush to as "a dimension of infinite pain", whereas Escape plays it for laughs and repeatedly describes LeChuck as "The Ghost-Zombie-Demon Pirate from Heck."
  • Grave Humor: In LeChuck's Revenge, Curse and chapter 5 of Tales.
  • Hammerspace: Used with a sword in the third and fifth games when it's time to fight. Used with a shovel in the fifth game when it's time to dig. Strange, considering the lengths Guybrush went to get these tools in the original game.
    • In Curse, EVERY item Guybrush picks up, no matter how large it is, goes right down his pants and disappears. At one point, Guybrush lampshades this.
    • Of course, pretty much every item Guybrush picks up gets sent into hammerspace, including a live monkey, a very large fruit picker, and a 60-pound block of tofu. His coat and pants seem to double as Bags of Holding. In the second, a manila envelope acting as hammerspace for all of Guybrush's confiscated items "tickles" when it is opened and dumps its entire contents into his inventory.
  • Happily Married: Guybrush and Elaine Marley-Threepwood as of Curse. They are very cute together.
  • Hartman Hips Many female characters, but especially Morgan LeFlay (who is actually an Impossible Hourglass Figure). Somewhat justified in that she's wearing a corset.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Guybrush for the red-haired Elaine.
  • Heroic Comedic Sociopath: Surprisingly, quite a few of the dialogue options allow you to make Guybrush one of these. They're generally the least useful ones, though, since you'll usually antagonize the characters, although thanks to the fact the games are impossible to lose or make Unwinnable you can still use them for a laugh with no permanent harm done.
    • Guybrush is entirely this during Revenge, where he is prone to doing some really nasty things for the sole purpose of acquiring a fabled treasure for himself. This includes getting a cook fired from his job, sawing off a man's peg leg, getting an innocent ship's captain jailed, lying to Elaine, and stealing Wally's monocle. The only "kind" acts he performs are those required to advance his own goals.
  • Hijacked by Ganon: Regardless how it might appear, the main antagonist in all games is always LeChuck
    • Averted in the fourth game, where LeChuck appears, but is quickly supplanted by the game's new villain who dominates LeChuck.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Happened to LeChuck a few times, particularly in the first act of Curse when his zombie body is destroyed up by the demon-fueled cannon ball he created to blow up Elaine's fort. The trope is subverted most of the time, though, because he usually comes back even stronger. In this case, the voodoo cannon ball led to his reincarnation as the Demon Pirate LeChuck.
  • Hold Your Hippogriffs: Loads of them.
  • Hollywood Voodoo: In spades. Practically all of it involves the Voodoo Lady in one form or another.
  • Hook Hand: Meathook has two of them. Guybrush himself gets one in chapter 2 of Tales.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: Much lampshaded, parodied and played with.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Parodied with the vegetarian cannibals.
  • Imperfect Ritual: In each game, Guybrush has to construct a Voodoo spell using items he finds that are similar to the ingredients listed for the spell. This may result in the spell having unfortunate side-effects or a limited range. Often he has to do it again at the end of the game with yet another set of items. Details:
    • The first game has the recipe for the map to the titular Monkey Island.
    • The second one has two instances of Voodoo doll manufacturing.
    • The third one has a hangover cure, twice.
    • The fourth one has the ultimate insult, twice.
    • Tales of Monkey Island opens with a spectacular failure due to a last minute substitution and continues with a quest to empower a magical sponge. The latter is repeated, but inverted.
  • It Belongs in a Museum: You can use this line a few different times as random dialogue, parodying its usage in Indiana Jones.
  • It May Help You on Your Quest: Just about every item.
  • Joker Immunity: LeChuck is too good a villain a to be out of the picture for more than a few acts.
  • Jungle Japes: Several islands have heavy jungles in them, including Dinky Island in Revenge, Plunder Island in Curse, and the titular Monkey Island.
  • Kleptomaniac Hero: "Pirates by principle have to steal everything that isn't nailed down (and if you can find a way to remove the nails and steal it, do so, and take the nails while you're at it)."
  • Large Ham: Most notably LeChuck ("AND MOOOOOOORE SLAWWWWWWW!!!!")
  • Leitmotif: The main theme and LeChuck's Theme are the most employed; throughout the series you'll hear variations of both, and key parts from each will leak into other songs—as in the underground tunnels climax of Revenge. Lesser examples are the themes for the Voodoo Lady, Stan, and Largo LaGrande.
  • Look Behind You: The "Look behind you! A three-headed monkey!" running gag. Mostly used as a distraction, sometimes it actually shows up and occasionally becomes a Crying Wolf trope.
  • MacGuffin: The Secret itself is the quintessence of this, since it is the driving force behind much of the series, and yet we never learn for sure what exactly it is:
    • Though the first game is named after the Secret, it does not appear at all in the plot (though early plot drafts imply that the underground passage to Hell beneath the Giant Monkey Head was intended to be the Secret).
    • The second and third game imply that the Secret is related to the Big Whoop treasure and the Carnival of the Damned.
    • Escape claims that the real Secret is a giant monkey robot hidden beneath the Giant Monkey Head.
    • Tales, again, make no mention of the Secret.
    • Finally, Return has Guybrush go on a quest to find the real Secret, which turns out to be a T-shirt, just like the Legendary Lost Treasure of Mêlée Island. However, the story is told by a very Unreliable Narrator, with the implication that there is no definitive answer as to what the Secret is, and everyone can come up with their own answers.
  • MacGyvering: Guybrush uses all manner of wacky items and combinations to save the day.
  • Magic Compass: Finding Monkey Island and the ghost ship LeChuck tends to involve constructing one of these.
  • The Maze: Several show up in the series, usually requiring Guybrush to find or improvise some method of navigation lest he become lost.
  • Meanwhile, Back at the… Lechuck's headquarters.
  • Milking the Giant Cow: Stan's way of speaking.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: "Chimps? There aren't any chimps in the Caribbean!" "Oh, shut up. It makes a good story."
  • New Job as the Plot Demands: Stan, the resident Honest John's Dealership, runs a different business in each game. In order, they are: used ship salesman, used coffin salesman, life insurance salesman, time-share representative and attorney-at-law-who-makes-a-side-income-by-selling-souvenirs-based-on-his-cases. His job changes are often explained as a result of something that Guybrush did in the previous game.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Most of the games have Guybrush's spending four chapters undoing his own actions. In Revenge he gives away LeChuck's beard, enabling his resurrection, in Curse he turns Elaine into a golden statue and in Tales he unleashes a Voodoo Pox.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Every single game features LeChuck giving one of these to Guybrush while he desperately tries to solve the final puzzle(s). It's taken to a new level in Tales, in which you can see the bruising and hear the pain in Guybrush's voice as you play the sequence.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • In the 3rd game, Guybrush reveals he has a fear of porcelain (which is something of a running gag throughout the rest of the game) and never explains why other than that it's "a long story". In earlier games he mentions his hatred of it, but he does not admit to fear.
    • What exactly happened between LeChuck's Revenge and Curse.
    • The entirety of Monkey Island 5 is a Noodle Incident, seeing as it hasn't actually been made but is referenced many times in Tales. According to Telltale Games, Tales is not Monkey Island 5 because the latter needs to be an epic 40-hour adventure.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: For the first three games, Elaine was practically the poster girl for this trope. She escapes from an undead pirate, carries out a plan to kill said pirate, manages to locate and travel to the elusive Dinky island without a map (Guybrush, eat your heart out), and saves Guybrush from being killed by Big Whoop. None of these four events occurs onscreen. (The last one was actually intended to be shown on-screen in a major cutscene late in Curse. The scene went as far as having the dialogue recorded, but its animation was sadly never finished due to budget concerns.)
  • Oh, My Gods!: The series has characters substitute "Blackbeard" and "Neptune" (and sometimes "Poseidon") for "God" ("Neptune's navel, that was a close one", "Now why in the name of Neptune's hangnails would I let you borrow this priceless artifact of a long-dead civilization?", "Neptune's beard!", "I said quit yer whimpering and grow some barnacles, for Blackbeard's sake!", "Nothing yet, thank Poseidon!"). The only exception, however, is Edward Van Helgen in Curse:
    Van Helgen: You must take an oath now, before man and God, that you will never ever again sing in public.
  • Old, New, Borrowed and Blue: In Escape, the four heirlooms which are the key to finding the Ultimate Insult are something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue respectively. (They were intended as wedding gifts.)
    • Following a similar scheme in rhyme and purpose, in order to make a voodoo doll, you need Something of the Head (dandruff, hair, lice, what have you), Something of the Thread (a thread or cloth sample from the victim's clothing), Something of the Body (spit, phlegm, blood...whatever), and Something of the Dead (a bone or something from a dead relative).
  • Once per Episode: In addition to the many running gags, the usual The Three Trials or pirate tropes and with occasional aversions; moreover, in most of the games several puzzles or situations recur, though not all appear in every game. In a typical adventure, Guybrush:
    • Begins skint broke, or with a heap of treasure that he promptly loses.
    • Has to commandeer or hire a ship to get off the starting island, and acquire a crew (usually three), who promptly mutiny or otherwise become a nuisance once they've made it into open water.
    • Has to get a fairly large amount of money, usually by dishonest means.
    • The Voodoo Lady tells Guybrush about some MacGuffin or Magnetic Plot Device needed against LeChuck.
    • Stan will appear in a new line of work and have to be bilked out of something to proceed.
    • Guybrush gets trapped or imprisoned in a small area and has to use only the items he finds there to escape.
    • Alternately, Guybrush is trapped in said small area with a countless number of helpful objects just out of reach.
    • Several puzzles gravitate around a bar and its beverages. Guybrush at least once has to drink something caustic and/or unpleasant.
    • The quest eventually leads to Monkey Island and a confrontation against LeChuck is the climax of the game.
    • The adventure is divided in about four/five named parts. The last is some variation of "Guybrush Kicks Butt".
    • Despite the above name, the last part consists largely of Guybrush being brutally attacked, repeatedly, by LeChuck until he can use the items around him to construct some kind of trap.
  • A Pirate 400 Years Too Late: Well, not the pirates, but the other anachronistic jobs like the laundromat guy, or coffee shop employees.
  • Pirates
  • Pirate Girl: All but two of the girls in the series are pirates.
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Pretty much everyone except the protagonist and the villains (the trope is often justified by the villain menace) and one crew of deranged monkeys that enjoys making people Walk the Plank.
    Guybrush (in song):
    You say you're nasty pirates,
    scheming, thieving, bad bushwhackers?
    From what I've seen I tell you
    you're not pirates, you're just slackers!
  • Plot Coupon: And occasionally, they're literal coupons to boot.
  • Punny Name: About half the cast.
  • Purely Aesthetic Era: Have we mentioned the grog vending machines? And the "shoddy 17th-century electrical wiring" ?
  • Rainbow Speak: Throughout the entire series, Guybrush is the only character whose text is always white when he speaks, even when voices were added to the later Monkey Island games. Many characters often speak lines of dialogue in colors, with one text color attributed to each character's speech. In Tales, for example, in forming subtitles, Elaine's text is "cameo pink", while Demon LeChuck's text is "asparagus green". Similarly, the Voodoo Lady's text is "thistle" (a shade of purple), the Marquis De Singe's text is "pink lace", and Morgan LeFlay's text is "munsell red".
  • Red Herring: Both figurative and literal. Ironically there's no overlap.
  • Replay Value: Most conversational exchanges in the games give Guybrush three or four dialogue choices, most of which receive a unique response. Usually he won't go through the same conversation multiple times; this means that one can play the entire game several times and get unique jokes throughout by choosing different dialogue paths.
  • Retcon: Has happened to the biographies of LeChuck and Horatio Torquemada "Herman Toothrot" Marley so many times that it takes several contortions of logic to form coherent backstories. See Wikipedia.
  • Room Escape Game: The games themselves aren't these on the whole, but each contains at least one puzzle based on this idea, where Guybrush is trapped in some small space and must use whatever he finds there to escape. (Since the games are designed never to become Unwinnable, and the developers don't know which items the player has picked up yet, whatever is needed to escape the room must logically be inside the room itself)
  • Running Gag: Tons of 'em.
    • Murray always shows up once per game since Curse.
    • Ditto Stan, only he goes back since the very beginning. While he was part of the story in the first game, ever since he's just been someone you know is going to turn up, always treat you simply as a customer, and always be selling something new. And his plaid jacket will stay still.
    • Starting with the second game, Guybrush will occasionally have to rent and use some item that will inexplicably be pink. Though he didn't seem to mind wearing a pink dress to a masquerade party (and was universally complimented on it), in subsequent games he shows increasing frustration at having to be seen in a pink ship or theme park ride car.
    • Guybrush asking people what the Secret of Monkey Island? is, since it's not revealed in the first game. No one has given a straight answer yet. (Flight of the Amazon Queen, a LucasArts adventure pastiche, gave a humorous joke answer to this: "Elaine is really a guy.") This is a joke on a meta level, as the original intended answer became inaccessible after Ron Gilbert left LucasArts.

      The gag continues still, only flipped. Twenty years after Secret's release, series creator Ron Gilbert released a game called DeathSpank , containing an old adventurer named Eubrick who claims to know the Secret of Monkey Island. Unfortunately, the game's titular hero isn't at all interested in what it might be.
      • In Curse, Guybrush actually gets LeChuck to admit that even he doesn't know what the Secret of Monkey Island is.
      • Ron Gilbert himself is known to troll fans over this. At a post-mortem presentation on it to celebrate the 30 year anniversary of the original release, he quipped that after 30 years, he forgot.
      • Come Return, 32 years after the series started, we get the answer. It's a T-Shirt. Or maybe it's just riches. Or it doesn't really matter. It's really up to you to decide what it is... if you even care to find out.
  • Scenery Porn: All games in the series have lovingly drawn, detailed graphics that are mighty impressive. The Special Editions of the first two take it up to eleven.
  • Script Breaking: In the second game the Voodoo Lady mentions the last time she helped you, but it's actually possible to complete the first game without ever meeting her.
  • Seadog Peg Leg: Several characters have those. Most of them pirates.
  • Sequel Snark: The games made a Running Gag out of referring to the franchise as having five games, even when there were only three or four. This became a Noodle Incident in Tales, which apparently skipped it over.
  • Shout-Out: Tons of them, specially to other Lucasfilm/Arts games and works. As mentioned below, exhausting every possible line of dialogue to trigger one becomes an implicit part of the gameplay. Expect many references and lots of wordplay if there is a library or a bookshelf around.
  • Sidetrack Bonus: Bearing in mind that the main point of the games is to access as many jokes as possible, it's usually more rewarding to try dialogue options and item combinations that you know aren't going to work, just to see what happens, especially since almost nothing you do can get you killed or render the game Unwinnable.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: A rare example of a relatively kid-friendly series of video games that leans very far on the cynical side.
  • Stopped Numbering Sequels: Only the first sequel is numbered, the ones without original creator Ron Gilbert at the helm -who had planned a trilogy- aren't.
  • Super Not-Drowning Skills: Guybrush prides himself on being capable to hold his breath underwater for ten minutes. It's one of his less goofy feats.
    • While nobody is ever impressed by this talent, being able to hold your breath for a long time is actually a very useful skill for a pirate.
  • Taps: The graveyard theme ends with the first four notes of Taps.
  • Treasure Map: Subverted, played with, and occasionally played straight.
  • The Three Trials: Trope namer.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Played with in the final act of a given game, sometimes aptly called "Guybrush Kicks Butt" or some mutation of it. Guybrush usually gets trashed by LeChuck, but it takes guts to just make a stand against the monster while finding some clever way to undo him. Straight example in the contests of insults, when an ignorant and weak Guybrush becomes a feared master after some Level Grinding.
  • Tropical Island Adventure: Being set in the Caribbean, the series naturally takes place on various tropical islands.
  • Trouser Space: Used very literally, and often lampshaded.
  • Uninstallment: Tales of Monkey Island is refereed to as the sixth Monkey Island installment, and starts off at the climax of a unseen epic adventure which presumably was the events of the non-existent fifth game. Exactly what happened on this adventure is unknown, but judging from the vague references Guybrush keeps making to it throughout Tales, it apparently involved something with LeChuck coming back to life as a killer walrus.
  • Unwinnable: Generally averted, according to LucasArts' policy, but it is possible to make the first game unwinnable if you really try, such as by using up all your money in the vending machine. Later releases of the game will simply cause Guybrush to refuse wasting any more money on the vending machine after the first time you try it.
  • Vengeful Vending Machine:
    • There are grog machines featured in four out of the five Monkey Island games. Two of them act like this.
    • In The Secret of Monkey Island, you can put as many pieces of eight as you want in it, but it won't work. A single bottle of root beer later falls out of it when LeChuck punches Guybrush into the machine.
    • In Escape from Monkey Island, the machine still doesn't dispense any grog, but if you kick it enough, some cans eventually tumble out.
  • Verbal Business Card: I'm Guybrush Threepwood, Mighty Pirate™!
  • Villainous Crush: LeChuck to Elaine.
  • Violation of Common Sense: Many actions the games require you to take are questionable in their wisdom. Over the course of the series, Guybrush has: ridden a rope across a chasm using a rubber chicken, deliberately mixed medications to put himself in a coma (twice), fired himself out of a cannon (thrice), triggered a volcanic eruption at point-blank range, soaked an irritable undead pirate with root beer... Thankfully, the games make it almost impossible to lose, no matter what you do, so the player can experiment without fear.
    • Let's face it, the Monkey Island series was one big Violation Of Common Sense. You're supposed to start the game, solve the first puzzle, realize that common sense just doesn't work in the Monkey Island world, and then gleefully throw all good judgment out the window and just try the most outlandish things you can think of. It's more fun that way.
  • Volleying Insults: A crucial part of the recurring "insult swordfighting" minigame.
  • Walk, Don't Swim: In all five games Guybrush spends some time sauntering across the bottom of a body of water. In some cases it's justified; in others, we can presume he's weighed down by the considerable contents of his pockets.
  • Walk the Plank: It's a game about pirates.
  • Weapons-Grade Vocabulary: You can win duels by providing snappy comebacks to your opponent's insults.
  • We Named the Dog Guybrush: In the second game, Elaine names her dog Guybrush for a number of unflattering reasons
  • Why Did It Have to Be Porcelain? Guybrush has a crippling fear of porcelain, so of course, he has to confront it in virtually every game.
  • "X" Marks the Spot: It's a game about pirates hunting for buried treasure. Naturally, this comes up sometimes.
  • The X of Y: Out of the five games in the Monkey Island series, only three of them have these trope titles: The Secret of Monkey Island, The Curse of Monkey Island, and Tales of Monkey Island.
  • You Fight Like a Cow: In Insult Swordfighting, the results of sword fights are based entirely on insults, with lots of Flynning between barbs. One such insult is the Trope Namer. The literal phrase becomes the standard Lame Comeback in many normal dialogues.
  • Zip Mode: In the third Monkey Island game, double-clicking an exit will take Guybrush there instantly, which is considerate because he walks very slowly. Later games switched to a 3D format and a corresponding change in controls, replacing the teleportation with a Dash Mode (but in Escape you can leave the room you're in immediately by pressing O).


Video Example(s):


"We'll surely avoid scurvy..."

Despite Guybrush's best efforts, he can't get his crew to stop singing and get back to work, since they find ways to rhyme with his protests... up until Guybrush hits them with the word "orange" which lets the air right out of their collective balloon, leaving him feeling slightly guilty.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / LeastRhymableWord

Media sources: